Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eat, Drink, Cook: Spicy Corn Salad

Hot sauce vinaigrette?

That was a new one on me, but added just the right touch to finish off a fresh crispy Spicy Corn Salad, redolent with the soon-to-fade pleasures of the late summer season.

The salad and generous chunks of Pumpkin Cranberry Bread were sample dishes Denver Chef Adam Fisher (above) made and handed out to help celebrate Colorado Proud School Meal Day at Centennial, an elementary school in the Denver Public School System. Lunch also featured a variety of Colorado-sourced food items with a savory entrée of Callicrate Beef and bean burritos in a green chili sauce.

Food and nutrition services director Leo Lesh is making a hefty commitment to support local and regional food providers, including Ranch Foods Direct. Already after the first month of the new school year, he’s well on the way to increasing his investment in Colorado grown food more than ten-fold. “It’s good for everybody,” he says.

Lesh met Mike Callicrate, founder of Ranch Foods Direct, at a Chicago meeting of School Food FOCUS, a national initiative designed to enable large, urban school districts to redirect food purchasing toward healthy, local and sustainable vendors. It addresses “a critical need to surround children where they learn and play with the food they need to thrive, while playing a pivotal role in anchoring regional food systems.” Lesh, who is purchasing ground beef for his roughly 87,000 students from Ranch Foods Direct, really emphasizes the educational component, saying he wants children to learn about healthy food so they will make good choices even when they aren’t in school.

Chef Fisher, who helped conduct a culinary “boot camp” for school cooks this summer on how to use more whole fresh foods in meal preparation, said the quality of the meat this year has been outstanding. One of the cooks said that while it was a lot of work preparing meals from scratch, it was also rewarding because she knew it was healthier for the kids.

According to the food service director, the students love hot and spicy foods. In the classroom, they made the corn salad and suggested ramping up the heat.

 Spicy Corn Salad

 ½ (15 oz.) can corn (OR I watched the chef cut the kernels fresh from a cob.)

1/3 (15 oz.) can black beans

½ bell pepper, green or red, chopped

chopped zucchini

chopped celery stalk

3 T. chopped onion

Wash, trim and chop zucchini, celery, onion and pepper. Drain corn and beans, rinse. Gently mix salad ingredients together.

In large bowl, mix together following dressing ingredients to pour over salad.

1 ½ T. lemon juice

1 ½ T. canola oil

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2 T. hot sauce